What is the “New Normal” for Meetings? Business Coaching for the “new normal” can help businesses adapt and create an inspiring vision for the future.
Chatting with business contacts and friends over the last month, most people seem to be suffering from virtual meeting/virtual drinks fatigue and are welcoming easing of restrictions on social distancing. So what is the “new normal”? Is this it? In this article we share our thoughts and set out a practical example – the “new normal” for meetings.
I find it fascinating listening to everyone’s views as the assumption seems to be that we should go back to where we were pre-COVID. As I mentioned in my article on 20th May 2020 – Business Coaching for Today’s Changed Workplace – there is an opportunity for businesses to review operations, in light of the rapid changes imposed in the last few months, and identify a “new normal” that is better suited to the future.
Some colleagues will find working from home frustrating and inefficient, missing the day-to-day contact with colleagues in the office. But others will find it more rewarding, feeling they are more efficient and better able to manage their workload without having the constant interruptions of colleagues nearby.
Similarly, with virtual meetings, the general consensus seems to be that one-to-one meetings work well, but it’s more challenging to have a spontaneous group discussion without a lot of practice and a pre-defined set of rules – which, of course, limits the spontaneity!
There are many benefits to working from home – for the environment, for health and for the bottom-line of the company since the need for expensive office space may be significantly reduced. But there is no doubt that for some aspects of work, getting together with colleagues, working together in the same workspace and being able to exchange ideas, brainstorm and strategize is the better option.
So what do businesses need to do? There is a real opportunity here to create a new vision for the future and to strategize about the best business model for the next ten years. Leaders should consult widely, listen to new employees coming in as well (as the more experienced hands), embrace technology and make it truly work for the business – rather than each of us being a slave to our emails and phones. Be brave and bold.
To give a very simple example, I was chatting to a friend the other day about virtual versus face-to-face meetings. I kept challenging the dismissal of virtual as an option in the future as not everyone has an extraverted preference – wanting to be with people, brainstorming and bouncing ideas around. Working with Insights Discovery as a licensed practitioner, I am very conscious that the virtual environment is more comfortable for some people and that face-to-face meetings aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. (For more on personal preferences and individual perception, have a look at LifeForward’s Insights Discovery).
Now the business is able to have small meetings (with appropriate social distancing), but it’s still not possible to bring everyone (30 + people) together in one place. So what’s the solution? My suggestion is what the learning and development sphere would call a “blended” approach. In this case, we apply the blended approach to strategy meetings.
Let’s look at how this works in the current climate. Take a group of 20 key people with whom the CEO and the MD want to meet to develop a strategic plan for the next 12 months:
- Decide how many can meet safely in each face-to-face meeting, eg five key managers plus CEO/MD.
- In order for the CEO and MD to attend all meetings, there needs to be a two-week gap between each physical meeting – so we have four meetings to be held over a period of seven weeks.
- In order to avoid silos, and to keep everyone involved as the ideas develop, we can use virtual sessions at relevant intervals to keep everyone engaged and thinking.
We might end up with something like this:
And hence, we have a practical, workable solution. It’s not rocket science, but it does require leaders and senior management to spend some time and effort on reflection and pre-planning and to have sufficient self-awareness and self-management to consider all perspectives, listen to alternative views and not push forward blindly and narrowly in the way that suits their personal preferences best. This will make the difference between “back to normal” and “the new normal”.
Often the best solutions are not complicated but they require us to look at a problem from a different angle and to consider those alternative perspectives. This is the power of coaching; whether it’s business coaching to embrace the “new normal” or executive coaching to develop those critical EQ competencies of self-awareness and self-management, coaches can be questioning and challenging but always with the aim of helping the client build greater awareness and understanding, take a broader perspective and consider more possibilities than are possible alone, enabling the client to move ahead with clarity and confidence. Again, be brave and bold – have the courage to lead the “new normal”!